A fish-fry fundraiser that raised $20,000 culminated last week with the release of about 4,000 fish into Dakins Lake near Zearing.
About 20 people gathered on June 10 as 2,000 largemouth bass and 2,000 catfish from North Star Hatchery in Montour took their first swim in the newly renovated five-acre lake, just across county road E-18 from the Colo-Nesco Middle School.The lake renovation project was part of a large project to expand the park from 41 acres to 103 acres, including a new 30-site campground.
Among those gathered for the fish release was Denny Baker, one of the group of Zearing citizens instrumental in raising funds for the early fish stocking. Earlier this spring, Baker and many others in the community came together to organize the fundraising event.
Without these funds, Zearing likely would have waited several years until a sustainable fishery was established. The lake will now be ready to fish in one or two years.
“This wouldn’t have happened without the Zearing community,” Baker said.
Story County Conservation Director Mike Cox said that the Zearing community will benefit from the citizens’ efforts to go above and beyond.
“Thank you to everyone for your support,” said Cox as he addressed the gathering before the fish were released. “When we first started talking about expanding Dakins, you told us, ‘We want a good fishery,’ and in a couple years we should have that. This community came together and raised over $20,000 - it’s not often you see that kind of support.”
Story County Conservation estimates that the new recreation area will bring in nearly $750,000 of economic development to Zearing and surrounding communities when construction is finished and these fish grow large enough to catch. The park will also feature a 30-site campground, shelter, showers, restrooms and fish cleaning stations, as well as a limestone hiking trail winding through the property.
Story County Conservation has already placed some habitat in the lake in anticipation of the fishery’s growth - three to five palettes wired together, concrete culverts covered with some rubble and sunken cedar trees will provide structure once the water level reaches capacity.
In addition to the largemouth bass and catfish, bluegills already make their home in the lake and black crappie will be added next spring in time for the campground’s scheduled opening.
“It’s great to see the fish go in; it’s been a long time coming,” said Carol Williams, special projects ranger for Story County Conservation.